Swansea City got knocked back down to earth with a bang as their unbeaten start to the season came to a frustrating end at Watford.
International breaks are never welcome when a team are in form and Garry Monk’s side couldn’t carry on from where they left off – a deserved home win against Manchester United, who convincingly beat Liverpool 3-1 later on.
Whilst it was arguably one of Swansea’s worst performances during Garry Monk’s tenure, Watford deserved great credit for making the game so difficult for their visitors. It was easy to see just how they have yet to concede a goal on home soil this season. They were very organised, hard working and physically strong, attributes that you could have applied to the Swans – up until today that is.
It was disappointing to see poor performances throughout the side. Williams and Fernandez looked vulnerable for the first time this season. Shelvey looked like the player he was a year ago – trying too many long, wonder passes that never came off, showing his frustration with his tackling at times and hesitating too often when in possession.
Ayew and Gomis failed to combine and provide a threat, and the latter never really looked like he would break a club record and score 5 in as many games – apart from a first half shot that was parried away by the goalkeeper.
Watford had already created a decent number of chances early on and by the 20th minute, it was looking like a matter of when rather than if the hosts would score before half time.
But fortunately for the Swans, Watford’s accuracy in and around the penalty area was letting them down, and they managed just one effort on target compared to Swansea’s 2.
Monk’s side finally settled into the game after around 30-35 minutes, Watford’s pressure eased, allowing the Swans to finally put some decent passes together.
When the Swans needed to slow the game down and gain control of possession at least for a decent spell, Shelvey tried a long audacious pass or Fernandez made a trademark poor upfield pass to concede possession yet again.
Ki’s calming presence was needed at the restart to help maintain the ball for longer periods and Routledge was offering very little in terms of attack, but the same could be said for his teammates. Montero would have been worth bringing on from the restart too but a double swap never looked likely.
The changes did happen during the second half though, Montero came on as soon as Watford scored the all important winner on the hour mark.
The goal summed up Swansea’s day really. One so simple that Monk will have been livid about. A long ball from the goalkeeper, easily flicked on across the penalty area after no challenge from a Swansea defender. Williams runs across to Deeney, when he should have marked the goalscorer in the box who had the easy task of finishing past Fabianski.
An equaliser within the last 30 minutes looking a tough task given Swansea’s lethargic performance that was lacking any urgency or creativity whatsoever.
It was made easier though when Watford were reduced to 10 men just 5 minutes after taking the lead. Ayew and Behrami went into a challenge, Ayew slid but was caught by an awful and blatant stamp that warranted a straight red card. A stupid thing to do, particularly when your side have just gone into the lead, a precious one considering their poor form in front of goal so far this season.
But they needn’t have worried though. 10 men, even with 9 men, Watford’s lead looked safe for 30 minutes as Swansea just couldn’t inject any energy and momentum into their attacking play. Montero couldn’t impose himself on the game thanks to Watford’s defensive focus following the red, and there was no space and time on the ball in and around the box to work it into good goalscoring positions.
In fact, it was Watford who missed two brilliant chances to wrap the game up with 10 men, as they threatened on the counter attack as Swansea pushed players forward – including defender and captain Ashley Williams.
But Watford’s failure to convert at least 1 of the 2 open chances they had on the counter demonstrated why they have struggled to score goals so far this term. They had a player advanage in both attacks but the Swansea goalkeeper and defence were able to make last ditch challenges to keep the score chaseable.
Federico Fernandez had Swansea’s one and only clear chance to salvage a point that they wouldn’t have deserved. It would have been harsh on the hosts, but the Argentinian defender really should have done better with a header at the far post. It was the type of header he’d make to clear a cross, as he sent the ball way wide of the target and into the stand behind.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, who has struggled for quite some time to find the form from early last season, was never going to impress against such a hard-working and strong Watford side. He was later replaced by Eder, as Monk went for two up top, but again, it made no impact. His side began to lump balls up to both Eder and Gomis and there was no team-mate in close proximity to pick up the loose balls.
When they weren’t lumping high balls up to the strikers, their play was far too slow and pedestrian, and you began to wonder how long they’d have needed to have finally found the back of the net.
You’d have hoped that we’d have left these type of disinterested, lethargic performances behind last season, but they’ve crept back in at game 5. Monk needs to pick up his players for what will arguably be their toughest home test of the season against an Everton side that comfortably beat Chelsea at Goodison Park earlier on Saturday.
Monk – 4. 2 weeks off, but his side looked like they had already played earlier that day. Couldn’t motivate and inspire an improved 2nd half improvement and wasn’t willing to take off Shelvey despite him having his worst game in months.
Flores – 9 – His tactics were spot on, got his side well organised and they managed the game brilliantly despite only having 10 men for the final 30 minutes.